USF survey gives town improvement tips
Some of the respondents' suggestions are major topics in the upcoming election.
By MINDY RUBENSTEIN
Published April 10, 2007
ZEPHRYHILLS - The city got ideas about improving itself from some University of South Florida students Monday night.
USF public administration graduate students sent 1,000 surveys to residents and got a 40-percent response rate, which is "very good" for a survey of this type, said student Mariana Llanso during Monday's City Council meeting.
"We feel the time is right for the city to look at levels of service and standards throughout the industry to get a better feel of what your services are really doing," she said.
Survey recommendations included improving public safety, redoing the comprehensive plan focusing on plans for growth and traffic, developing an outreach program and better publicizing meetings using signs like the ones used in Hillsborough County.
"Do those really work?" asked Councilwoman Celia Graham, referring to the large, blue and white signs typically posted in Hillsborough to publicize upcoming meetings. Llanso said they work.
Ninety-two percent of respondents felt that city employees are doing a good job, which pleased City Manager Steve Spina.
This was the fifth year Spina has asked the school to do the research study, which this year included a questionnaire posted on the city's Web site in addition to paper surveys mailed to residents.
Those who completed and returned the survey were entered into a drawing for tickets to a Tampa Bay Lightning home game.
The project allows students to gain research experience and provides the city with an annual report at a minimal cost.
The survey included questions about property taxes, budgeting, online bill paying, satisfaction with the mayor and city manager.
While the survey was conducted prior to the recent attacks on two elderly women in the city, researchers recommend focusing on crime awareness and protection, especially with the elderly population.
They suggest increasing the visibility of police in neighborhoods and efforts to enforce traffic laws in the community.
This also is a hot topic in the current race for City Council seat 5, which will be decided in today's election.
Incumbent Danny Burgess, 20, wants to start an informant system where residents report issues to a designated City Council member.
His opponent, Richard Kaeberlein, 34, recently started a neighborhood watch where he lives and plans to step up crime prevention if elected.
City Council members will mull over the survey results and decide if any new ordinances are needed.
"It serves as a good gauge for us," Spina said.